Whitewater rafting was the result of a government research project to discover the least efficient way of getting from point A to point B.
Rafting involves riding an easily sunk, floppy boat through an obstacle-strewn, raging river, 200 miles from the nearest hospital, guided by hillbillies and featuring bland bologna sandwiches at the end.
If somebody has invited you on a rafting trip, by all means accept. And take every opportunity later to tell chicks that you enjoy rafting, like a real outdoors man. Mention that you had to fend off a bear with a paddle when he came nosing around your s'more session on the river bank. Do not bring chicks along with you on the trip, so they don't see what a goober you look like in a life jacket, helmet, nose plugs, and so they don't hear your womanish screams when you are hoisted into the boat by your armpit hair after a particularly nasty waterfall.
Your rafting experience will begin this way: a bunch of your friends, their friends, their vague acquaintances, and some hitch-hikers they picked up along the way, will convene in the middle of nowhere because a river happens to be there. You will be driven from the livery in a school bus that the Mississippi Board of Education sold in 1947 for being "an obsolete death trap" through winding things that in some ways resemble roads, to the "put-in" spot about ten miles or so up the river. This is where you will "put in" your raft.
When rafting, make sure that aren't wearing any underwear cuz boy will it ever itch during those long lulls between rapids. And this brings me to the most important part of rafting: those pictures you see of people joyfully tumbling through rapids, showing nature who's boss, don't tell the whole picture. Ninety percent of your time will be spent in quarter-mile calm stretches of flat, slow-moving water. Take the time to read a book you brought in a plastic baggy, watch dragonflies do it, or chat with your guide about his best dead body stories (a good guide will have at least six dead body stories).
Let me prepare you for some of the downside. You will get wet, and you will get dunked in the water. This has its benefits. First, you can take the time to pee right there in the water (there are no porta-potties along the river). And that's the only benefit I can think of. At some point during the trip you will drop down a three-foot waterfall and a one-gram drop of water will enter your ear hole at 200 MPH, blast right through your ear drum, tunnel through your temporal lobe, and come out the other side. Splash fights will break out, and that one fat guy who got drunk the night before will jump into your raft and land on your back. Your guide will yell at you for not paddling fast enough, and if ever you need to poo you had better just go right in your pants and let the river take care of it because they will not stop an entire party of rafts so you can take a fifteen minute dump behind a tree with the latest Girl Bop magazine.
Your trip will mercifully end at the spot where you parked your car, which you are unable to operate because your arms no longer function.
Actually, not every guide will be a toothless hillbilly. Some of them will be rednecks, hicks, hayseeds, corn pones, carny-wannabes, and other assorted would-be Jerry Springer guests. You can know easily what type of guide you have by consulting this list, as well as a suggested tip.
1. White male southerner: May or may not wear a ball cap, definitely doesn't wear a helmet or life jacket, probably has both arms visible due to sleeve-cut-offage, Confederate flag tattoos and Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts are the normal attire. Good-natured, actually knows what he's doing, scares the bejeebers out of urban middle class types. Take care not to use the words "bistro" or "artisanal" around him. Suggested tip: Enough to buy a six-pack of Pabst.
2. Spooky, silent type: He may look like a carny, he may look like a GQ model, but one thing's for sure, he has a chair made out of femurs in his basement. The kind most likely not to sit with everybody during lunch, and also most likely to deliberately flip the boat. Just don't ask them a lot of questions. Definitely don't ask what they're getting their sweetie for Valentine's Day. Suggested tip: a twenty stapled to a note that says "when you snap, remember I was on your side."
3. College girl: The best kind. She's in it for the dough during summer break. She could have done study abroad at Rome but that's so cliche and this gets her closer to nature anyway. The only real downside is, as mentioned earlier, how goofy you look in your helmet, life jacket, and nose plugs. If ever there was a time to risk death, this is it. Make sure you talk a lot about how you love nature, and want to someday run a conservationist non-profit organization. Suggested tip: Ten bucks and an invite to the get-together at the one local non-fast-food restaurant after the rafting.
4. Old hippie: He moved out of the city "back in the 80s" to "get away from all the hypocrisy." He looks like Karl Marx, he eats only bean sprouts and cauliflower, he gets into political debates with the rafters, but he does know the river and won't let you die (unless you make a crack about Obama or mention how you voted for Reagan twice). Tell him you voted for Nader and he'll make sure the boat doesn't flip. Suggested tip: something, anything, from your car. Could be a plastic cup, it doesn't matter. Just tell him you don't believe in buying gifts, but in "reusing" (use that word!) things you already have, because like, man, there's already enough stuff in the world.
5. Guy who owns the rafting company: His hair will be slicked back, he will not mind that he's shirtless and his man boobs are sticking out, and he will flirt with any chick you bring. (I told you not to bring them!) Don't ask them ANYTHING about the livery business unless you want to spend the next six hours hearing all of the details. Suggested tip: Nothing, just say you'll suggest the place to "all your friends." Ask for a business card so you can give it to a guy planning a rafting trip next month, he'll pee his pants.
Rafting is an activity. And like all activities it has stuff involved in it. And that stuff is an inspiring testament to man's ability to cap off a funny article with a really winning summation. If only he could think of one. One thing is for sure though: rafting isn't going away. Wherever there are rivers, there will be rafters. And where there are rafters, there will probably be rivers. Two words, that both start with 'r.' And isn't that what it's really all about?